BEIJING – The passenger was hobbling along on crutches, struggling to make his way through the crowds as he tried to find the waiting room for his train at Beijing Railway Station.
“Let me take you to an elevator for the disabled that goes directly to the waiting room,” said Jia Jinghong, after getting the man’s train number.
Wearing a red cap and a T-shirt bearing the logo of the Beijing Charity Volunteer Association (BCVA), Jia and other volunteers give directions and provide help to hundreds of thousands of passengers at the station every weekend.
Jia, 43, a native Beijinger, works for an insurance company. She told China Daily that she views herself as “important to others and to society, helping those in need”.
“I like these warm-hearted volunteers. One of them just helped me to carry my heavy baggage to the waiting room,” said a passenger surnamed Sun in his 60s, who is a construction worker. Sun was planning to take the D1 from Beijing to Northeast China’s Harbin city on Sunday.
The BCVA, which held its official launch ceremony on Saturday, has received more than 2,000 online applications for volunteer positions, said Chen Zhibin, the association’s secretary-general.
More than 600 volunteers have contributed nearly 2,700 hours of their free time to BCVA activities, Chen told China Daily on Sunday, adding that every registered volunteer must serve 30 to 200 hours annually.
“I am a migrant worker in Beijing, so I know the fears and worries of many people who are new to a strange city like Beijing,” said Li Yahu, who has volunteered at the Beijing Railway Station since he joined the association three weeks ago.
The association has signed a one-year contract with Beijing Railway Station under which it will regularly send volunteers to the station.
In return, the station provides free lunches and training for volunteers, said Zhang Sufang, who is in charge of managing the volunteers.
Registered with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs as a charitable organization, the BCVA also aims to provide sustainable voluntary help to disadvantaged groups in communities, said Chen.
“We plan to organize some volunteers to provide long-term services for old people who live alone, doing daily nursing tasks or simply talking to them,” Chen said.
The association also plans to have volunteers with a psychology background to counsel those facing major surgery, he revealed.
Ge Daoshun, an expert on social policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, warned that volunteer groups must be careful about providing public services.
“It’s hard to determine who should be blamed and take the legal responsibility if an accident occurs while volunteers are providing services,” he said, adding volunteers should not be used to substitute for improvements in the services that are supposed to be provided by public, tax-financed institutions.